Published on February 26, 2014 | by Matteo Besana3
Ukrainian student: ‘I held a dying man in my hands’
More than 70 protesters, including students and lecturers, have been killed during protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev following the recent political uprising.
The ongoing demonstrations began in November 2013 and saw students walk out of universities and march through the city to join several thousand other protesters calling for the Ukrainian president to resign.
The revolution was sparked by President Viktor Yanukovich’s EU ‘U-turn’, in which he rejected an agreement for greater integration with the European Union and instead accepted the offer of a $15 billion ‘bailout’ from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Paul Vickers, a British lecturer and pro-European blogger who teaches at the university of Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, spoke about his involvement with the Ukrainian movement:
“My first ‘action’ was to write to my students to explain to them that these protests were likely to escalate and define the fate of their generation. They would thus be free from any classes if they wanted to participate in protests on any side.”
He added: “When the first protests started in Ivano-Frankivsk, the day after the decision not to sign the EU Association Agreement, I was among the crowd each day listening to speeches, presentations etc.”
“With my wife, we called the fire brigade when the Security Service building was set on fire in the city. We also tried negotiating with masked youths throwing Molotov cocktails.”
However, the demonstrations have been fraught with violence and Ukraine is now lamenting the death of protesters such as Bohdan Solchanyk, a 29-year-old lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University, who was killed at Independence Square in Kiev on February 20.
On the previous day, one Ukrainian student, @Mira_mp, had tweeted: “I held a dying guy in my hands: his head and belly were shot through. I will never forget this night.”
Oleg Akhtyrskyi, the Kiev representative for the Oxford University Ukraine Society, said: “The past few months have changed us all. It was the first bloodshed in the modern history of Ukraine. Not everyone supported the protesters, but I am confident that no one was indifferent.”
Sofiya Kvasha, a Ukrainian student who lives in Kiev and studied journalism at London College of Communication, spoke to Arts London News about the growing feeling of disillusionment with regards to Ukrainian politics:
“Some people are still on the barricades and not too hurried to break them down, as the level of belief in the politicians is low.”
Kvasha, who had to move out of her flat in central Kiev for security reasons, thinks that even if the pro-Russian government is out of the picture, the future for Ukraine is still very uncertain.
She added: “It can’t be worse than [the] Yanukovich government, though its too chaotic now and absolutely impossible to make any adequate conclusion. However, ideologically I feel this change is positive.”
Though supposedly ousted in a coup, Yanukovich is still refusing to step down and is thought to have sought refuge in the Russian-speaking eastern part the country.
Vickers concluded: “What will be forgotten in the history books is how everyday life carried on even while people were being shot, buildings were burning, and the president was escaping.”